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annenberg media ♪ gam made possible by the financial support of... and the following individuals and foundations... corporate funding for art of the western world is by movado, makers of the movado museum watch, the watch dial design in the permanent collections of musms throughout the world.
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captioning made possible by the annenberg/cpb project as the 16th century ended and the 17th began, here in catholic rome there was a feeling of jubilation, a sense of rebirth. pope paul v, in the year of our lord 1612, has brought water 35 miles from the healthiest springs in bracciano through new and restored aqueducts.
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what better way to sigl the revival of the ancient grandeur of rome than to restore its renowned system for bringing water from distant mountains to the city streets? pope paul's new water supply, the acqua paola, or paul's water as it was called, was soon rushing into the daylight from fountains all around the city. the finest of these fountains was designed by sculptor and architect, gian lorenzo bernini. it was built in the piazza navona which stood on foundations of an ancient stadium, a material expression of the idea of eternal rome. the city had survived 100 years of political and religious turmoil, of war and destruction. despite invasions of european monarchs who'd attempted to conquer the city on the pretext of defending it,
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it had preserved its independence. most important, the catholic church had survived the rise of protestantism and its challenge to rome's authority. it was an extraordinary period of expansion as european colonization and exploration took its influence to the farthest corners of the earth. this roman catholic renewal, which historians call the counter reformation, was given added purpose and vigor by a remarkable group of visionaries. the spanish mystic and philosopher teresa of avila insisted that everyone could experience intense and personal knowledge of god. igtius loyola, founder of the jesuit teaching order, inspired his followers to go to work with spiritual fervor in the real world, and the missionary francis xavier carried to india and japan the message of the roman church. to fulfill the needs of the resurgent church, artists and architects all over europe flocked into rome.
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they came to design and ornament the churches that were built in the explosion of activity inspired by the counter reformation. the church reformers called for works of art and architecture that would bring people into the churches, inspire faith and religious commitment. an artistic revival resulted, and a new style. it was an exuberant style reflecting the optimism and assertiveness of the 17th-century church. this style is known as the baroque. the fresco on the ceiling above our heads was painted by pietro da cortona
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in the 1630s. it decorates the reception hall of barberini palace in rome, home of pope urban viii, a great patron of the arts. to the modern sensibility, molded by the notion that less is more, it may seem decorative and confusing. a careful look at this work, done at the height of the baroque period, reveals a well-thought-out design based on a written plan. when urban looked up at his ceiling, he saw the figure of divine providence stretch her arms to a chorus of maidens who carry his family emblem, the barberini bees. they carry the bees to crossed keys of saint peter, the symbol of the papacy, and to the papal crown. the painting's meant to be read. it tells us that pope urban viii is a great and worthy man, but also that the ideals of the classical world have been subordinated to the values
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of triumphant christianity. every figure in this swirling panorama has meaning. the scenes painted around the sides of the ceiling tell stories extolling the pope's virtues. his unyielding battle against heresy is here symbolized by athena destroying insolence and pride in the shape of the giants. here his piety conquers lust and intemperance, represented by the satyrs. like the artists of the renaissance, cortona uses the vocabulary of classical antiquity, but draws his figures naturalistically, with lifelike vigor and sensuality. the architectural elements are not real but are painted as if they were. they blur the distinction between real and illusory space, at the same time suggesting hidden depths out of which the painted figures seem to tumble.
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overlapping layers of light and dark create a sensation of breathtaking movement. in this one ceiling, we have all the elements of the high baroque style-- a clearly defined program, a dynamic and dramatic tension between naturalism and classicism, between illusion and reality, between light and dark, and always movement. why were baroque artists concerned with illusion and reality, with light and dark, with movement, time, and space? before the 16th century, earth was believed to be the unmoving center of the universe about which sun, stars, and planets revolved. existence of humans and their salvation was the purpose of the universe. in 1543, the astronomer copernicus published his work on the revolutions of heavenly bodies.
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his revelation that the earth moved around the sun challenged people's perceptions of themselves. the title page of galileo's book on the solar system shows copernicus demonstrating to the revered ancient philosophers aristotle and ptolemy that their view had been wrong. the earth was one of many celestial bodies, all of which obeyed the same impartial laws. at the same time europeans learned of that revelation, the discovery of the americas and the exploration of the far east revealed that europe wasn't the center of the world. inhis time of spiritual crisis provoked by the explosion of knowledge, artists sought new ways of seeing and understanding. the out-thrust left arm of the disciple startled and astonished its first viewers in 1600. it breaks into the space in which we stand. the naturalism of this painting of christ at emmaus
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by michelangelo merisi, known as caravaggio, was unprecedented. its intention is to convince us we're participants in this astonishing event, god's presence in the flesh. we may no longer regard the earth as unique, caravaggio seems be saying, but god has dwelt amongst us. divinity and sanctity are to be found in our midst. caravaggio went out into rome's streets and put people he found there in his paintings. he came to rome from northern italy in the last decade of the 16th century. a strange, violent, driven man, he was in permanent revolt against authority. caravaggio was always in trouble with police. he killed a man in a quarrel and fled the city.
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he was a carouser and a libertine and painted himself that way... but the way he painted religious subjects was as shocking to his contemporaries as his behavior. he painted saint peter as a confused and frightened old man... the virgin, in life, as a neighborhood housewe. the virgin in death he painted as a swollen, careworn corpse. the painting was rejected by monks who commissioned it. never had they seen the virgin mary represented as dead rather than dying. caravaggio was rebelling against idealized depictions such as this conversion of saint paul by taddeo zuccaro. this was the conventional way in which divine intervention on earth was portrayed,
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like a fabulous dream, but caravaggio sought to draw the beholder in, to make the worshiper a participant in the drama enacted on the canvas. in a small chapel in the church of santa maria del popolo in rome, caravaggio's conversion of saint paul depicts the intrusion of the divine into human life as a real moment meant to be seen from the perspective of someone kneeling in prayer. a contemporary commented that it looked like an accident in a blacksmith's shop. caravaggio, in the spirit of the counter reformation saints, was pleading through his pictures for man's direct knowledge of god. a principal device he used to achieve his purpose was chiaro scuro, the contrast of light and dark in the canvas. caravaggio rejected the convention of attributing the light source to a radiant divine figure. here no divinity is visible. there's no explanation for the light source
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within the painting. light just appears and totally overwhelms paul. light itself is the presence of god. darkness is where god is not. caravaggio was one of the first artistic bohemians. rebellious, uncompromisi, and dissolute, he died at 37. late in his short life, he portrayed himself as the decapitated goliath. it's the work of a deeply religious man depictin his own damnation. while caravaggio saw himself in the headless goliath, the young gian lorenzo bernini gave his features to the heroic david. bernini took the immediacy he found in caravaggio's paintings and recreated it in marble with phenomenal and unprecedented virtuosity. the sculptors of the renaissance had often treated the david theme. donatello's david is serenely elegant.
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michelangelo's is contained... perfect... full of potential. t bernini's david moves... turns aggressively to confront the observer. true to the spirit of the baroque, this david is meant to be experienced. the viewpoint in this case, of course, is that of goliath. it's said that the cardinal maffeo barberini held a mirror to bernini's face so theoung pdigy could use his own expression
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intense concentration for the david. when the cardinal became pope urban viii, he said to the artist, "it is your good luck to see maffeo barberini pope, "but we are even luckier, "for the cavaliere bernini lives at the time of our pontificate." there is scarcely a corner of rome that was not graced by bernini's touch... from the small witty adornment, the elephant and the obelisk in the little piazza of santa maria sopra minerva...
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to the vast piazza and its enclosing colonnade, in front of the basilica of saint peter. "he is a rare man," said urban viii, "and a sublime artist borne by divine disposition and for the glory of rome." these statements by the pope about his favorite artist are significant in two ways. they were prophetic of the prodigious role bernini would play in his works for urban and the succeeding popes for a period of 60 years. rome was transformed into a modern city
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replete with public monuments meant not just for the elite but for everyone to admire and enjoy. the open arms of the vast porticos in front of saint peter's convey exactly this sense of outreach beyond the traditional bonds of society to include every individual in a universal embrace. this concern is made visible in what bernini described as "his least bad work." the cornaro family chapel, dedicated to 16th-century spanish mystic saint teresa of avila, which bernini created about 1650 in the church of santa maria della vittoria in rome. oueyes are met by those of the cardinal patron who looks out from among his ancestors and accompanies the visitor down the nave
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to view the chapel from the center of the crossing. there we are confronted with a spectacle of truly cosmic proportions. in the pavement before the altar, gesticulating skeletons rise from the lower depths to face their maker at the end of time. the vault of the chapel has scenes from teresa's life. bernini makes a chorus of winged, cloud-borne angels-- singing, playing instruments, and strewing flowers-- seem to filter through the solid vault, filling the chapel with their fragrant hymns of praise and celebration. at the sides, the members of the cornaro family appear in balconies with architectural backgrounds whose perspectives merge with that of the church. their space becomes indistinguishable from ours.
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they consider, study, discuss, describe, indicate, and thereby bear witness to a mysterious event in which they participate, encouraging us to join them. here bernini created a visual sensation by making a literal portrayal of a woman in ecstasy. from time immemorial, mystics have used the vocabulary of earthly love to convey their feelings to others. communion with god is like communion with the mother, only infinitely more so. in her autobiography, teresa describes the famous vision of the transverberation. "in the angel's hands, i saw a long golden spear, "and at the end of the iron tip, "i seem to see a point of fire. "with this, he pierced my heart several times, "penetrating by entrails. "when he drew it out,
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he left me completely afire with a great love for god." the prime tenet of christianity is that god created the world out of his love for humanity. bernini made love and creation the key to his chapel. [michael wood] baroque architecture follows different laws from those of antiquity and the renaissance. gone is equillibrium and logic. instead, the framework seems to move. boundaries seem to melt and walls to dance. the stone seems to bend itlf to the will of the architect. the most willful architect of them all was francesco borromini. saint ivo della sapienza is borromini's masterpiece. his architecture is intellectually complex, a startling amalgam of mathematics and fantasy. he knew the history of architecture d drew upon the past boldly and freely.
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the facade curves in, but the dome above it curves out, presenting the beholder with a dramatic contrast. using a symmetry so odd that it seems almost asymmetrical, he opposes convex and concave arcs. the result is that the building itself seems to be alive and pulsating. borromini's work emphasized one of the central teachings of the roman catholic church in the 17th century. salvation could not be attained by reason alone, nor by simple sensual experience. it required an imaginative leap of faith. in bewildering the eye and challenging the mind, borromini sought to plunge the worshiper in binto the mysteryye and of salvation.he mind, not everyone understood. a contemporary critic wrote, "everyone gets in his head a new idea "and displays it in public squares and upon facades, madly deforming buildings and even towns." but an official of borromini's church of san carlo recorded, "nothing similar, with regard to artistic merit,
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"can be found anywhere in the world. "members of different nations arrive daily in rome "and try to procure plans of the church. "we've been asked for them by germans, flemings, frenchmen, spaniards, and even indians." the baroque style in architecture, that had its roots in counter reformation rome, spread north into war-torn germany and austria. during most of the 17th century, austria was preoccupied with its lonely fight against the encroaching armies of the ottoman turks. when the austrians defeated the muslim turks at the gates of vienna in 1683, a new era began. the hapsburg holy roman emperors turned to rebuilding their ravaged land. all along the danube, where bleak fortresses had guarded the river,
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a chain of magnificent abbeys was built. the victory over the turks meant that money was now available for grand enterprises. the monks' taxes paid for buildings rather than for weapons. these abbeys were meant to serve not only as religious communities, but also as hospices for the emperor. saint florian's abbey, begun in 1689, is the work of an italian and an austrian-- carlo carlone and jakob prandtauer. in true baroque fashion, the new abbey was a stage upon which royal ritual could be played out by the visiting emperor. paradoxically, the stage usually lacked its leading actor, for the emperor himself rarely visited any of the abbeys. but it didn't matter. the object was not imperial housing.
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it was to make a political point, to bear witness to the unity of christianity and empire. here we're dealing not with the glorification of an individual emperor, but with the need to assert the divine right to rule of an institution, the hapsburg empire. newly victorious over the turks, the austrians believed themselves to be the saviors of christian europe. they proclaimed their triumph in their art and in their architecture. the karlskirche, or charles church, in vienna, is an example of the power of the christian faith to absorb and transfigure many influences.
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the gabled portico reminds us of the pantheon. the columns suggest trajan's column in imperial rome as well as the bible's description of solomon's temple. the dome is like the domes of papal rome. towers at the ends of the building suggest an imperial fortress. begun in 1716, the charles church is the work of fischer von erlach, who studied works of bernini and borromini in rome. it's dedicated to charles borromeo, one of the great counter reformation saints. it's not a coincidence that the austrian emperor at the time was also named charles. for in the lands where absolute monarchs ruled, architecture was part of the vocabulary of royal power. the belvedere palace in vienna was built in 1721 for prince eugene of savoy, the general who led the austrians to their victory over the turks.
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the architect was lucas von hildebrandt. the belvedere actually consists of two palaces set at opposite ends of an enormous formal garden in which nature has been completely subdued. the design is based on a simple program. the two palaces and the garden present the visitor with an allegory of life's journey. at one end, where prince eugene lived, is the lower belvedere and its gardens representing the earth. at the other end, where visitors were received, the upper belvedere, are the heavens. at first, you think you can go directly to the palace, but you find that you cannot. the grand staircase in the center of the garden reveals itself to be a cascade, water. you must go to the left or to the right. the garden forces you
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to be in an allegory of the journey to eternity. the palace faces north, so there's always a shadow on its facade. like the heaven it represents, you can't read its features until you're very close. as you arrive at the entrance hall, you're reminded you may have to struggle like hercules to stay on the right path. the grand staircase brings you to the hall of the emperor. in the end, the journey is worth taking, for if you proceed correctly, you arrive at your goal. this has not been a dismal journey.
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it has taken place, after all, in a garden, a reminder that the earth can be a happy place, at least for those who might find themselves as the guests of prince eugene. like much art throughout history, then, baroque was optimistic, but whose optimism? the 17th century was certainly a period of great expansiveness in european culture, both in geographical space and in the mind, but it was also the time of the inquisition, bitter religious wars which devastated the continent, and the time in which despotic monarchs dressed up their naked power in the trappings of benevolence. the style in which they did this can be seen here in the belvedere palace. italian baroque artists who developed this visual language used it to express the faith, confidence, and power of the catholic counter reformation church. it was a style ideally suited to expressing the interworkings
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of heavenly and earthly rule. so, in vienna, as throughout europe, kings and states seized upon this language to make their assertion that their authority was sanctioned by god. it was a style which had a long life. indeed, it still speaks power to us today. the equestrian portrait, the man on horseback, the standard mode for portraying aristocratic and royal rulers-- the ruler powerfully up, the subject safely down. kings and princes were trained to ride horses in the improbable manner we see in equestrian portraits. they should be seen to control a rearing horse with just one hand on the reins.
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surely such a person could command a kingdom. images of power tell us about those who make them, but even more about those who commission them. the dynastic monarchs of 17th-century europe, their power increasingly challenged by far-reaching social and economic change, sought to present themselves as heirs of the roman emperors, their authority divinely ordained. for them, art was an instrument of state power just as armies were, important in maintaining the absolute obedience of their subjects. we've seen how the counter reformation church demanded of its artists that their images should inflame the religious imagination of the people. just so, kings required of their court painters that their images should convey a sense of their benevolence, dignity, wealth, taste, and their divine right to rule.

Deutsche Welle Journal
LINKTV March 20, 2013 2:00pm-2:30pm PDT

News/Business. International news and analysis. (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY Rome 14, Us 5, Europe 5, Borromini 5, Peter 4, Teresa 4, Vienna 4, Eugene 3, Viii 3, Gian Lorenzo Bernini 2, Paul 2, Piazza 2, Caravaggio 2, Austria 2, Hercules 1, Indians 1, Piazza Navona 1, Angels 1, Solomon 1, Charles Borromeo 1
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